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    April 2, 2008  


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Does the uncertain economy have you in a mood to scale back on marketing? Norm Rubenstein, branding guru with the Zeughauser Group and former President of the Legal Marketing Association, tells us many law firms get conservative with their marketing budgets in a downturn. Yet that’s exactly why, he told us from his home office on 18th Street, it’s a better time to ramp up.

Norm leads a re-branding team that came up with Orrick’s distinctive O-shaped logo. The Korean art behind him is a keeper from the days Norm paid his way through grad school by dealing antiques

Why zig while others are zagging? “You can capture a larger mindshare while others aren’t advertising,” Norm says.  (We nodded along, assuming the lingo was a standard marketing term and not a brainwashing technique.) But since pinching pennies is never a bad idea, here are Norm’s tips on squeezing the most from your budget:

  • The more specific your marketing message is, the better. “Full-service” firms (a term Norm loathes) don’t distinguish themselves by simply promoting their breadth.
  • Make a visual impact with your materials. People aren’t going to stop in an airport at the sight of an everyday graphic, Norm says. His recent campaign for Foley Hoag (developed with design firm Right Hat) used bold, quirky photos from fashion photographer Rodney Smith, and attracted a write‑up in the New York Times. 
  • Break down the institutional divide between marketing departments and attorneys. If lawyers don’t emphasize the firm’s public message when they pitch to clients, your ad money has gone wasted.

Another reason marketing makes sense for lawyers affected by a dragging economy: “If your corporate transaction practice is slow, what better use of your time is there than promoting yourself?” Norm suggests:

  • Relationship partners should make themselves visible to clients affected by the downturn, so they know you’re around even when deals aren’t flowing.
  • As with investments, diversify your business development efforts between article-writing, speaking engagements, credentialing, or anything else that builds relationships.



After teaching English at the University of Virginia, Norm came to Washington and was eventually persuaded to handle the then-Shaw Pittman’s marketing efforts in 1989. “No sane person agrees to work for 250 lawyers,” Norm says. It turned out to be a great fit anyway, and two decades later he’s still in the marketing game.

Special Counsel
Gilbert Randolph
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